By Daniel Hodges
Each year, the principals of Retail Store Tours visit hundreds of establishments in order to determine the annual winners of the 2020 Retail Store Tours Global Consumer Engagement Awards. The criteria for these awards are the seven consumer-engagement factors that make up the Retail Store Tours Consumer Engagement Index (see below).
The winners for 2020 are:
- The Human Touch: Atelier Beauté CHANEL in SoHo
- The Use of Technology: Sephora Worldwide
- Store Design: Shanghai Roastery: Starbucks Reserve
- Brand Story: Gentle Monster Shanghai
- Employee Training: b8ta
- Change: Nordstrom
- Unique Value Proposition: Camp
- Excellence in Shopping Center Experience: Hudson Yards
- International Store Award: Brooks Brothers in New York & Shanghai
The Retail Store Tours Consumer Engagement Index was developed from a multiyear, global research effort that included both in-person visits and interviews with retailers and consumers. Using this research and working with business leaders, Retail Store Tours identifies the seven factors that drive retail shopping growth by promoting consumer engagement.
1. THE HUMAN TOUCH: The ability to empathize with customers is crucial to retail success. For that reason, today’s successful retailers hire sales associates based on their kindness and their ability to inform and entertain customers. The leading technology retailers, in particular, focus on the human touch as a core business strategy.
2. THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY: Technology that interacts with shoppers as part of their in-store experience is now a winning play. These technologies, however, must align with the customers’ needs and desires. Technologies that resonate with their target markets promote deeper customer engagement and excitement. This is why forward-thinking brands build behind-the-scenes IT infrastructures that support a multitude of applications within the organization. The result is greater brand loyalty and increased shopper frequency.
3. STORE DESIGN: The best store designs match form to function. The design of the Apple Store, for example, features a minimalist approach that mimics the sleekness of Apple’s products and implies accessibility and ease of use. The Ray-Ban Store, on the other hand, makes use of a design that emphasizes the store’s process-oriented purpose, taking the customer from an eye examination all the way through to the selection of customized eyewear.
4. BRAND STORY: An engaging brand story helps to cultivate customer loyalty and often can transform loyal customers into brand evangelists. Furthermore, once they become identified with a brand, today's consumers want to offer feedback, and they want their feedback to matter. Such empowered consumers would like to contribute to the success of the brand in the long term, providing the parent company with an invaluable resource if treated respectfully.
5. EMPLOYEE TRAINING: The general rule in retail is to hire for attitude and train for skill. With well-executed training, employees serve customers more effectively. Retailers who additionally take into account cultural fit and interpersonal agility benefit from greater customer engagement and generally suffer less employee turnover.
6. CHANGE: The ability to capitalize on rapidly changing trends in consumer behavior is usually the trait that most accurately distinguishes winning brands. The future belongs to the fast movers who can adapt their business models quickly to the changing retail environment.
7. UNIQUE VALUE PROPOSITION: It should go without saying that a store offering distinctive products within a unique, focused concept is destined for success. A buying experience not found elsewhere has significant appeal for consumers seeking originality.
Daniel Hodges is the founder and CEO of Retail Store Tours (retailstoretours.com). RST’s expertise is curating for its clients information on innovations and trends in the rapidly changing retail world.